Rafael Nadal did what he usually does when he faces Roger Federer: he beat him. And he did so fairly easily, too, in their Australian Open semifinal, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3. Nadal has now beaten Federer 9 times in their last 11 Grand Slam meet-ups, and owns a 23-10 record against the Greatest of All Time.
Which again brings up the question: IS Federer the greatest of all time?
Certainly, Rog has the record of most Grand Slam wins -- 17 -- and the most consecutive weeks as Number One. But the 27-year-old Nadal, "in the meaty years of his career," as Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim put it, is just four Slam wins away from tying that record. His career trajectory still seems on the rise, bad knees be damned, while the 32-year-old Fed's is trending downwards.
IS Federer the Greatest of All Time?
Federer has entered this season trying to shake things up, with a new, bigger racquet and a celebrity coach, 6-time Slam winner Stefan Edburg. But the strategery was no match for Nadal.
"For nearly two weeks now, Federer had played like the Federer of old — but Nadal beat that Federer, too, for the most part," said The New York Times' Greg Bishop.
"I tried a few things," Federer said. "I think Rafa does a good job of neutralizing you."
Check out Nadal the Neutralizer:
Nadal said it was his best match of the tournament.
"I think I played great," Nadal said. His only dissatisfaction with his level of play was on a point during the first set tiebreak. Yes, Haters., just one point. I can only dream.
Here's how he analyzied the tiebreak:
In the deuce position I made second serve return with a backhand that I had mistake. That is the only point I am not happy about the way that I played on the tiebreak. With 5-1, I missed a forehand down the line but it was the right shot. Missed it for just little bit.
It's a little window into Nadal's Tennis Love, how he learns from his mistakes. He doesn't get into whining and self-flagellation, doesn't indulge -- at least, in front of reporters -- in self-pity. IHis analysis was a dispassionate dissection of what was working and what wasn't. He asked himself simply: Was it the right shot at the right time?
Nadal plays for the championship against Federer's countryman, the now-best Swiss player on the tour, Stan Wawrinka. He defeated Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) in their semis.
It's Stan's first Grand Slam final, and he'll be unnerved, no matter what. Stan is 0-12 against Nadal. The blog Busted Racquet points out that Nadal has not lost a set against Wawrinka. But Stan had lost to Novak Djokovic 14 times in a row before upsetting The Djoker in the quarters Wednesday night. With the top seeds Djokovic, Serena, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka ousted during this year's Aussie Open, why not bet on Wawrinka beating Rafael Nadal?
"I didn't expect to make a final in a Grand Slam and now it's happening," Wawrinka said. "I'm just really happy."
He's got another day to enjoy that feeling before looking across the net at Nadal.